The art of customer service: dead or in hiding?

First, my apologies for being MIA for so many months. Between work, wedding planning, the Junior League and being President of the FPRA Capital Chapter, I rarely have time to even think about blogging, let alone actually type a post! Hopefully in mid-August, I will be back on track – posting weekly. I should be refreshed from our Alaskan honeymoon and ready to attack the fall.

However, given all my craziness, I still wanted to take the time to write about the importance and art of customer service. This stems from an awful brunch experience Sunday at a Tallahassee restaurant. It was my second time there. I gave the place the benefit of the doubt, but unfortunately I once again left underwhelmed and disappointed.

I’ve never worked in hospitality, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to deal with customers all day, with their diet requests and personalities. However, the concept of being nice and welcoming is not alien to me as I work in PR and deal with clients, media and people all day! I know we all have bad days, people who drive us nuts and times where we are just over it, but unfortunately if you work with people, you must suck it up and be kind. After all, they’re probably not the problem…you’re just projecting.

Case in point, yesterday at brunch I arrived with two other girlfriends and our three little dogs. We sat outside at the restaurant and I went inside to alert someone that we were seated outside – I even offered to bring the menus out myself. After a few minutes, we were “greeted” by an unpleasant server. No hello, how are you or even a smile. She was annoyed that we were there and more so when we asked if we could get some fresh water for the pups. We brushed it off and tried to stay positive…it was our Sunday Funday after all.

We order our brunch items: waffles, huevos rancheros and a Cuban sandwich. Then we wait…and wait…and wait. We have to suggest to our server, who continues ignoring us, that perhaps it would be a good idea to leave a pitcher of water for us since she’s busy inside with her other tables — namely an “8 top.” Meanwhile other tables that had arrived after us were receiving their food and their servers were checking in on them. Hmmm…finally after what felt like hours our food arrives and it’s kinda cold and okay. Nothing to write home about. Our server comes by to check on us and asks how it is…we all say the same thing: “It’s okay. Thank you.” That was not the adjective she was looking for. We told her it was good, not great and that we were a bit disappointed to have waited an hour for the food. She got super upset with us and stormed off. She comes back and declares: “I have clarified with the kitchen and you did not wait an hour, it was 42 minutes.”

Well then, alright. Excuse us, it was nearly 45 minutes then. At this point, our brunch is officially ruined. We speak to a manager who makes excuses about being busy, etc. He offers nothing in return, not even a sincere apology. So, as we paid for our checks and left, we decided they would be less busy now since they’ve lost three customers and their potential business.

The sad part is customer service seems to be a dying art. More and more, I’m experiencing these less than pleasant encounters at restaurants, in stores, and over the phone. I’m not sure why, but it seems everyone is upset, tired, overworked, uninterested or simply rude. I’m not asking for a cheerleader every time or for my food to come out in five minutes. I’m pretty patient, but I do think that if you work with people (and most of us do to some degree), it helps if you start with a smile and try your best to be nice and pleasant.

Email Etiquette: From Hey! to Best

I receive hundreds of emails a week and I’m always surprised at the approach some people take with email communication. From big wigs to students, there is never a shortage of interesting phrases, content and tones.

Perhaps I over think content and messaging because of what I do for a living, but I value people who take the time to read their emails one or twice before hitting send. Email is a powerful communication tool that is taken lightly by many. Since actually writing a letter or card is a dying art (one that I think needs to make a comeback), I approach writing emails the way I would write a letter. I always include a greeting and am formal and polite in my writing. Although email is lightning fast, that doesn’t mean your message should be reflective of the speed in which it was sent.

Here are my email faux pas with some suggested etiquette:

  • The casual greeting – Unless you’re emailing your BFF or mom, consider a greeting that fits the situation. Hey, what’s up, how’s it going and yo are INNAPPRORIATE at best. Even if you and your client are close, keep in mind your role. If you work for someone, keep it professional folks. Get back to basics and say good morning, good afternoon or something to that effect. No need to get creative with weird or too friendly greetings. The only thing worse than a weird greeting, is no greeting at all. I find it very rude when I receive an email with one sentence – no hello, how are you – I feel like someone’s barking at me. Make the effort and say hello!
  • The body – An email is not a novel, so I like to get all my facts in and get to the point. With a proper greeting in place and “hope you’re doing well,” I get straight to the meat of the email. This especially rings true in PR when you’re pitching a reporter. No one has time to scroll down and read your life story. If you can’t say it in a paragraph or two, pick up the phone.  Also, check your grammar and spelling before hitting send. Read your email out loud and make sure it makes sense. This is not a text message. No need to include acronyms no one but you and your friends understand. Comprende? FTBOMH, LOL! 

  • The awkward goodbye – This is usually my favorite part of an email in that people really go over the top with their particular ending of choice. I’m not a fan of a fancy ending that always seems disingenuous. My approach is to keep it simple. I say thank you when it’s appropriate or looking forward to hearing from you and then sign my name. That’s it. Here is a list of my personal pet peeve endings (sorry in advance if you’re a fan of any of these!): Best (always reminds me of Richard from Sex and the City), Warm regards (awkward and creepy) , Respectfully yours (too much, every time), With anticipation (too eager and too awkward), Cheers (I like this one for a friendly email, but if you don’t know the person it makes you sound like a wanabe Brit), Adios/Au revoir/Ciao/Namaste (Unless you speak the language and the recipient does too, the foreign goodbye is cheesy)

  • Ignoration nation – The only thing I dislike more than a poorly written email is no email at all. I make it a point to answer email ASAP! I check my inbox as much as I can and try to respond immediately. No one likes to be ignored. It’s also obnoxious to receive an email response after a deadline or an issue is resolved. Thanks for nothing! Timing is everything and it’s best to be early.

  • Phone call, please! – It has happened to the best of us. You write an email, saying something one way and someone else takes it in a completely unintended way. When it comes to sensitive subjects, don’t be lazy and pick up the phone. With an email, you can’t guarantee something will not be taken out of context, forwarded to the wrong person or the tone misinterpreted. If it’s important and deserves some attention and dialog, call the person and talk it out. Things can quickly get out of hand on an email chain and people can be offended. Use your words – spoken not written to ensure your point is taken and fully understood.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on email pet peeves and faux pas. I know we all approach it differently, but think about what you’re saying before you hit the send button. After it’s gone, you can’t take it back!

Communicating at Conference: An opportunity to reach your desired audiences

I love public speaking. There’s something exciting about sharing your knowledge and stories with a room full of people, connecting with them, making them laugh, answering questions.

For communication professionals, especially for us agency folks, speaking engagements are an amazing opportunity to reach a large audience and showcase our work and capabilities. I find annual conferences to be a time where everyone in an organization is eager to learn the latest and greatest in industry trends and return to work invigorated with new ideas to implement immediately. Well that’s how I feel every August when I return from the annual Florida Public Relations Association conference.

Because I’m such a fan of FPRA’s annual conference, I’ve looked for opportunities to attend other conferences as a speaker and share PR and communication best practices, case studies, etc. to members of other industries.

This summer, Kidd Group will be presenting at the FMEA-FMPA Annual Conference in Palm Beach. With more than a decade of experience working with utilities across Florida, we will be sharing some of our most successful case studies as well as affordable resources available to utilities to help meet their communication needs. Additionally, we will have the opportunity to hold a smaller breakout session covering media training and social media best practices.

As I start thinking about some of the conference presentations on the horizon for 2011, I’d like to share some tips for presenting:

  • Research and plan ahead – Not all audiences are created equal. Learn about the conference where you’ll be presenting, its audience and what that particular industry has been faced with from challenges to successes. Knowing your audience and the industry will ensure you create a presentation that is relevant and engaging.
  • Create an interactive presentation – There’s nothing worse than a text heavy PowerPoint that mirrors what you’re saying at all times. I don’t like reading presentations word for word. Instead, I like to make my presentations more interactive adding pictures and videos that will spark questions and conversations from the audience and will keep the presentation moving forward. Less is more – consider bullet points instead of full sentences and get the audience participating with stories, videos and other visual examples.
  • Have fun and be yourself! – After all, no one likes a presenter who’s not enjoying his/her own presentation. Keep in mind, conference attendees are spending time away from work to learn new things that will be useful to them and their staff. Make sure you’re providing real life examples and ideas that can be implemented immediately. Be yourself – being comfortable in your shoes goes a long way in connecting with the audience. Keep the audience engaged, ask questions and above all have fun. If you’re having a great time, chances are so is the audience.

Do you have any presentation tips to add? I’d love to know!

New Year’s Work Resolutions

2010 was one for the books – personally and professionally I had a phenomenal year. I got engaged, became the president of the Capital Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association, am a board member of the Junior League of Tallahassee and took on a new position as the PR Director at Kidd Group. Some of the these things happened within a week’s time, so if 2011 is anything like 2010 it will be another record year.

As I think about the end of 2010 and the beginning of a new year, the possibilities are endless. With a new year come resolutions from being kinder to losing weight to meeting a new goal, there are countless things we aspire to each yea. Although it’s safe to say that most people end up giving up on their resolutions right around February.

In terms of work resolutions, I thought it would be appropriate to list some of my personal goals for the 2011.

  • Collaboration – Although you can succeed alone, most people attribute their success to teamwork, collaboration and those who influence and shape their lives. Work wise there is no better feeling than to work together to win big, from new business to implementing a successful campaign. In 2011, I plan to continue collaborating with co-workers, FPRA members, Junior Leaguers to continue kicking butt and taking names!
  • Being a Motivator – Positivity is key. Having a good attitude at work and giving 100 percent every day makes work and life that much more fulfilling. I want to be a motivator to everyone I come in contact with and help them reach their full potential. Helping others always feels good and is extremely satisfying.
  • Leading by example – The best way to get people to do good work and be motivated to perform and exceed your expectations is to BE the person/employee you want them to be. Practice what you preach in 2011 and reap the rewards!
  • Continue growing and learning – You should never be satisfied with the status quo. I never want to settle or stop learning. There are always ways to improve, continue challenging yourself and growing. I want to stay on top of new industry trends from social media to measurement to PR – I want to constantly be learning new information and sharing it with my network.

What are your New Year’s work resolutions?

It Pays To Network

For many people attending an event with the expectation of talking to strangers and making new contacts is not their idea of a good time. I’m one of those people who actually likes networking and have first hand experience enjoying the success that can come from it.

Like it or not, many of us are involved in networking in one way or another. If you are a business owner or in a position to bring new business to the company you work for, then networking is part of your job description. If you’re a young professional looking to break into an industry, networking should be your part-time job. If you serve on a board or are involved in a charitable organization or cause, networking is your middle name.  Either way, knowing how to take advantage of the contacts you make and growing your personal and professional brand in the community is essential and networking plays a huge role in your success.

When I left news reporting and began working in public relations, I wanted to learn more about the industry and meet other professionals in Tallahassee. I decided to join the Florida Public Relations Association Capital Chapter…five years later I’m serving as president of the organization, have attained my accreditation in public relations (APR) and have grown as a professional. This happened because I was able to step out of my comfort zone and into a room of strangers who I now call my colleagues and friends.

I’m also a proud member of the Junior League of Tallahassee. Through my involvement with this wonderful organization, I have received invaluable training, helped make a real, measurable difference in the community and made life-long friends.  When I joined the League I hardly knew anyone. Today I am happy to say that some of my closest friends are fellow Leaguers and I’ve even made business contacts through the JLT.

In Tallahassee, we are very lucky to have a close-knit community and a host of professional groups and associations with which to get involved. From the Chamber to the Network of Young Professionals to the Tallahassee Film Festival and the Business and Professional Women of Tallahassee, there is a group out there for you. So figure out what you’re interested in, find a group of people or an organization that fits the bill and get involved. Who knows, in a few years you may be running the organization! Cheers.

Work Family: Building Relationships That Last

In honor of October being National Work and Family month, I thought it would be appropriate to address the idea of a work family. Most of us spend more time at work every week than we do with our loved ones. For better or worse your co-workers are your work family and like every relationship, you have to work at it.

When I joined Kidd Group five months ago, I was hopeful I would have a warm and welcoming work family and that I would one day consider them friends. I must say they did not disappoint. I received flowers from Trish on my first day and was invited to countless lunches by different co-workers my first few weeks on the job. I never felt like the newbie or like I didn’t fit in. It was such a relief.

I’m happy to say my co-workers and I continue to spend quality time every week, from exploring the newest eateries in town to having ice cream sundaes on Friday – there’s never a dull moment. I also love being able to introduce some of them to new events – just this Friday we attended the Greek Food Festival as our lunch adventure of the week! We also make a point to celebrate each person’s birthday with something sweet, whatever their vice, whether cake, cupcakes or ice cream – or a combo.

Part of the company culture is to celebrate each other’s accomplishments. When the 3W studios web team received a Silver W3 award, we celebrated with ice cream floats. When I participated in the 2010 American Lung Association Oxygen Ball earlier this month, I received votes from my co-workers and kudos when I brought home the Judge’s Award.

As if spending time in the office weren’t enough, we’ve been known to spend a few weeknights and weekends together. This is especially fun because we get to bond outside of the workplace and get to know each other’s families, loved ones and pets. We’re working on “bring your dog to work day”…we’ll see if that happens!

Taking the time to get to know each other and spending quality time building our relationships makes us a better, stronger team and it shows in our work product. From spa parties to spending the day on the range, shooting guns and eating BBQ – we make the best of our time together on and off the clock!

What do you think about a work family? What is your experience like?

 

 

Giving Back AND Dancing Like A Fool!

So it’s been a few weeks since I blogged. I feel terrible because my goal is to blog once a week. Needless to say, my schedule has been a bit nutso – work, Junior League, my first FPRA board meeting and membership meeting as president and training for the American Lung Associations, “Dancing with the Local Stars” Oxygen Ball.

I will start by saying that professional dance training is NOT easy, but it’s SO much fun! I have equal number of bruises and laughs to prove it. :) I’m a big believer in giving back and being a part of this fundraiser has been an amazing experience so far. It’s close to my heart because I have asthma and it’s amazing that I’m able to have fun, learn real choreography and help raise money for a good cause.

I’ve always wanted to secretly be a part of something like “So You Think You Can Dance” or “Dancing With The Stars.” (Not a secret any longer.) But alas, I’m neither a professional dancer nor a star. BUT, lucky for me, the American Lung Association puts on an annual event modeled after “Dancing with the Stars.” (Score!)

I’m dancing a Mambo and there are turns, tricks and lots of hip shaking. My professional dance partner, Darian Chancellor,  is amazing and super patient with me. Let’s just say some of the tricks do not come naturally. Every practice is fun – complete with jokes, crazy moves, falls and sometimes it all comes together beautifully. Hopefully by October 9th it will be seamless!

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to give back to the community, while pursuing a bit of a passion. The journey has also taught me a lot about the wonderful people in my community. A local couture designer, Hayley Mann, of Hayley Lauren Couture, is sponsoring my costume – creating a unique look for my performance. And so many friends, family and colleagues have donated to the cause by voting for me as “Fan Favorite.”

It never seizes to amaze me what can be accomplished when a community comes together, and Tallahassee is such a great example. I’m so lucky to have a chance to give back and make a difference in my community, and I’m doing it in 8 counts and with a big smile!

How do you give back to the community?

PS – If you’re so inclined to donate to the cause. Please vote for me as Fan Favorite here: https://www.mrsnv.com/evt/e03/reg/preform.jsp?id=3013 Much appreciated!

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